The 2013 NFL draft featured a weaker-than-usual class of quarterbacks, to be sure, but there was another reason EJ Manuel was the only QB taken in the first round: NFL teams know the 2014 class of passers is loaded with intriguing talent that comes in a variety of sizes, skill sets and experience levels.
Which brings us to the preseason edition of my QB rankings. Unlike my Insider colleagues Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, who will be projecting these signal-callers (and all the 2014 draft-eligible prospects) all season long based on their NFL potential, and unlike analysts who are ranking them based on their collegiate performance, I'm setting out to do a little of both. For these rankings, I give equal weight to two factors:
• How productive and valuable each QB is for his college team
• The NFL-caliber skills of each QB
My reason for factoring NFL potential into a ranking of college quarterbacks is about more than just measuring the chances for each QB to achieve his ultimate goal of playing at the next level -- it's also because NFL-caliber arm strength and accuracy (in addition to athleticism, size and other factors) are incredibly valuable weapons against college defenses, too.
Our preseason top 10 features drop-back passers, dual-threat signal-callers, and as many QBs from the Mountain West as from the ACC and Big Ten combined. As good as this group is, there are several more quarterbacks with the talent and opportunity to catapult into these rankings when we revisit them during the season -- Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, TCU's Casey Pachall, Miami's Stephen Morris and UNC's Bryn Renner are just a few of the names to keep an eye on.
Here is my preseason ranking of the 10 best quarterbacks in college football, with "college production" and "NFL skills" ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10) for each:
College production: 9 (out of 10)
NFL skills: 9 (out of 10)
The unquestioned franchise quarterback of this class, Bridgewater has an ease to his game that is unmatched in college football. His attention to detail jumps out on tape the way the football does out of his hand, and his intangibles (on display after he fought through wrist and ankle injuries to lead the Cardinals past Rutgers and into the BCS) are elite.